And that process had a rocky start. Broadnax announced his resignation Wednesday, which triggered three members of the City Council to schedule a meeting for Tuesday. Mayor Eric Johnson then scheduled a separate meeting for Monday, led by an ad hoc committee that he has ordered to head up the search for a replacement.
The conflicting meeting requests continued the confusion of the prior week, following reporting by WFAA that eight council members had worked behind the scenes to formally request Broadnax’s resignation without involving seven of their colleagues, including the mayor. Asking for the city manager’s resignation, whether in a formal public meeting or informally, could trigger a clause in his contract that would allow him to receive severance equal to 12 months of his full salary, $423,246.
The City Council spent portions of the two meetings getting on the same page, a unity that has been woefully lacking around the horseshoe. Monday’s meeting was a briefing of the Ad Hoc Committee on Administrative Affairs, which Johnson tasked with doing the bulk of the heavy lifting on the city manager search. That committee consists of Tennell Atkins, Cara Mendelsohn, Jesse Moreno, Paul Ridley, and Kathy Stewart.
However, all 14 council members showed up, despite the mayor appointing just five to the committee. Johnson was the only member absent, and he also missed Tuesday’s.
The two agendas were nearly identical, but Tuesday’s meeting also included a discussion and vote to approve Kimberly Tolbert, a top Broadnax deputy, as interim city manager upon her boss’ departure this summer.
That created a brief and testy exchange Tuesday as Council Member Adam Bazaldua made a motion to discharge the ad hoc committee from the duplicate duties. City Attorney Tammy Palomino explained it was a procedural move—the full Council couldn’t take up the duplicate items until they had been removed from the committee’s list of duties. Council can vote to return those items to the committee’s purview later.
“We shouldn’t even be here today,” Mendelsohn said. She felt that the fact that three members signed a memo to schedule the meeting was not transparent.
“That’s in the charter,” Council Member Omar Narvaez said of the mechanism that allows three council members to request a meeting. Ultimately, 12 members voted to discharge the committee, while Mendelsohn and Ridley voted against it. Council then went into closed session to discuss performance evaluations for specific employees, as well as the appointment of Tolbert as interim city manager. The body ultimately voted 12-2 to give the interim job to Tolbert on June 3, Broadnax’s last day. Ridley and Mendelsohn were the two votes against. Once she begins the interim role, Tolbert will receive a 15 percent pay bump in her current salary to $367,683.
Much of Monday’s meeting focused on the timeline and what information city staff needs to begin the search. Human Resources Director Nina Arias and Procurement Director Danielle Thompson briefed the Council on their options, including hiring a search firm to conduct a national search. They also discussed a timeline for hiring that firm, conducting the search, and naming a new city manager, as outlined in a draft document the two departments crafted over the weekend.
Thompson explained that the first order of business is for the Council to determine the scope of the work for a search firm. A request for proposal, or RFP, she said, would need to include details like compensation and job expectations for the incoming city manager because search firms would use that information to help decide whether to throw their hats in the ring.
“The entire procurement process is contingent on receiving the proper feedback from the Council,” Thompson said.
That feedback includes everything from the job description to how input is sought from city employees and residents. In his memo last week, Mayor Johnson said he would be looking for a city manager who focuses on public safety, taxpayers, basic services, communication, and accountability.
Monday, council members were clear they had additional requirements, with several pointing to the equity work that Broadnax spearheaded during his tenure.
“At what point do we begin talking about as a body … the type of city manager that this organization needs?” asked Council Member Zarin Gracey, who represents portions of southern Dallas.